Wednesday, December 31, 2008

TWD Tall and Creamy Cheesecake

As I started this cheesecake I told my husband that I was hoping for something that was a "to die for" a "I have to make this again!" My other two recipes for TWD have been fine, but nothing we loved. My wish came true, we LOVED this cheesecake! We've enjoyed so many sweets this Christmas holiday that I worried this cheesecake would get little love and attention, but I was wrong. It's a hit!
As I read through the 'Playing Around' I was tempted to make many cheesecakes, the options are endless! I finally decided on a nice fresh orange cheesecake and it was perfect. The orange zest and extract were exactly what the cheesecake needed, without being too overpowering. I stuck with the graham cracker crust, but think a gingersnap crust would have been delicious. The recipe gave an option of using heavy cream or sour cream, and I went with the sour cream because my food budget for the month had already been tapped.

I love having a helper in the kitchen. Andrew is always willing to stir something up, taste test, and of course, make a mess!
As a note for my fellow impatient bakers, I followed the recipe pretty well, but tried to serve it before it had chilled for four hours and that was a mistake. It definitely needs all required chill time (don't we all).

This tall and creamy cheesecake is definitely a keeper! To check out the full recipe at Anne Strawberry's blog.
Lastly, I know some of you write brilliantly about your creations and some pictures are truly artistic. Someday I'll do that, but for now I'm feeling great to bake and post what I can. I love TWD and reading what everyone has done with their baking. My husband asked me today why I signed up for one more deadline when I've got three children under three demanding all of me. I reminded him of my love to bake, my love to create, and my love to eat! So, here's to making time for some action in the kitchen and some much-needed baking!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

TWD Grandma's All Occasion Sugar Cookies

I was so excited to make sugar cookies with my little ones! Of course when you let them do the decorating it may not turn out as the classic beautiful sugar cookie! In this recipe Dorrie has you roll them into disks and refrigerate the dough. I love seeing these perfectly shaped dough disks on the shelf in the fridge.

Once they've been in there for at least 2 hours pull them out and roll them. This is the most frustrating thing about making sugar cookies is the rolling. But smarty-pants Dorrie tells us to put the dough between two sheets of wax paper while you roll.

Then you get to cut the shapes. I've never done the wax paper thing before and I found just how helpful it is when I was trying to peel the second batch off the paper. They stuck a little so I did as Dorrie suggested I put it back in the refrigerator to stiffen up and popped right off!

After baking came the real fun! The DECORATING! The kids loved doing it - as usual. Since I let the kiddos do the decorating they don't have the artistic flair Dorie's recipes deserve but it sure was fun.

If you'd like to try Dorie's recipe yourself you can go to kuchenlatein

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

TWD: Snickery Squares

I got pudding on our rotation -again.  Last month's pudding wasn't a big hit.  The pudding for this month was a butterscotch pudding that boasts about its alcohol content.  Not really my kind of sweet.  Its ok to choose one that's already been done and I've been dying to try the Snickery Squares, so here they are!!!

Let me just say:  YUMMY!!!!!  These had 27 simple steps that took me nearly 2 days (I'm slower than most and I was making several other goodies in between), but we loved them.  My husband couldn't top eating them.   I couldn't stop eating them.  I think I'll need to stop baking for a while after Christmas.  I'm pretty sure Nate (18 months) only ate cookies today.

I started with the shortbread crust.  Zip through the food processor, press into the pan and bake.

I should have taken more pictures, but my kitchen was a very busy place today.  The next step is to caramelize the peanuts, which was actually pretty quick and simple.  

Then spread dulce de leche strait from the can onto the shortbread.  Wow!!!  

Sprinkle 1/2 the peanuts.

Make the chocolate mixture.  Spread on top. 

Sprinkle with other 1/2 of the peanuts, which are now chopped.

And voila!!  Snickery Squares!!

If you're dying to try some, come on over.  I doubled it, so I have plenty left.  If you want to make some yourself, you can go here for the complete recipe.  I also did some other Christmas baking so we could take the kids out caroling.  I made  Grandma's sugar cookies, Rugelach, Candy cane cookies, peanut butter chocolate rice crispy treats, and chocolate chip cookies in addition to the Snickery Squares.  It was a fun and yummy night!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

TWD: Buttery Jam Cookies

Three words...buttery...jam...cookies. How in the world could this not be good!?! This weeks TWD recipe is for Buttery Jam Cookies. The recipe, as it is published, calls for apricot jam. I found a lovely local jam of Cherry Boysenberry Preserves and figured I would give that a try in one version of the cookies sticking with the called for ground ginger. I was in a particularly "baking happy" mood and decided to also try an orange marmalade version with cloves instead of ginger in the dough. 

Both doughs turned out thick the way Dorie says they should look and baked up just the way other TWD bakers said, coming out of the oven shaped like they went into the oven. Although they aren't  a very "pretty" cookie I still found them to be quiet tasty. They are soft and less biscuit-like than expected which is a good thing. 

With the orange marmalade version I drizzled some melted chocolate on top and that kicked them up a notch. The cherry boysenberry cookies got a sprinkle of powdered sugar as well, mostly cosmetic to mask the grey-purple color. 

These were good cookies. Not to-die-for cookies that I will make over and over again but I would try them again with other versions of jam. If you are interested in trying them out head on over to Randomosity and the Girl for the full recipe. 

Until next week, Happy Baking!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Treats

We spent the weekend baking away and delivered Christmas treats to our neighbors and friends. I love Christmas. We drove around with the Christmas music on looking at the lights and went to our friends houses. The girls took turns going into each house and they loved it.

The spread this year was Lizzie's killer toffee as we call it, peppermint bark, orange butter cookies (Rach's lemon butter cookies, but with orange), and as previously posted Whit's foothill sweet dreams. Yummo!!! So as you can see most of the treats come from the Hasler clan. Thank you thank you. I wanted to make the peppermint chocolate sandwhich cookies, but I haven't been able to find peppermint extract in New Jersey yet so I substituted peppermint bark. If any of you Hasler girls find peppermint extract and want to mail it to me with the kids Christmas cards that would make me very happy.

Orange Butter Cookies (Lemon)

1 cup butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2/3 cup cornstarch
1 cup flour

Mix and drop by teaspoonfulls on cookie sheet. Bake at 325 for 15 min. Frost


2 1/2 - 3 frosting
zest from one orange
2 Tb of fresh orange juice (add more for preferred consistancy)
1/4 c. melted butter

mix and frost cookies. I use a squeeze bottle (like ketchup bottles)squeeze it on the is a little more efficient and it looks cute too.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

TWD....Linzer Sables

My first TWD post... yeah!!! I was assigned Linzer Sables. These cookies taste like what you think Christmas should taste like. The flavor was amazing! I actually loved the dough more than the finished product. I loved that the recipe called for ground nuts that mix in with the flour (no chunks of nuts for the non nut lovers). It gave the cookies wonderful flavor. I used walnuts because it is a softer nut that I thought would ground easier. It also called for cloves which I am not a huge fan of because that spice seems to be the dominate flavor when used. I lessened it a bit but not much and it blended well with the flavor of the nuts and cinnamon. I am glad I used it. I also thought since it is christmas time that instead of using the scalloped cut out I would do stars to make it festive. I thought they turned out cute.

I did some with star cutouts in the center and some with circle. I liked the circle ones better. I also used Nutella in the center of some as well as raspberry jam and then some with both. I didn't make the ganache since my little Marcus was sad this afternoon. Poor guy!

You roll out the dough between plastic wrap or wax paper and refridgerate for two hours on a cutting board. I found the dough a little hard to work with so the second batch I rolled I made a little thicker and that helped quite a bit.

Glenn hasn't come home from work yet so he has yet to review them. Rebekah loved the dough, but hasn't had the cookies yet. We will see what she thinks. Overall, I would say they were fun to make and have a festive taste, but they may be a little too much work for me to make regularly.

If you are interested on trying the recipe yourself, click on over to Living the Life.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

TWD Towfer Pie

Ok, so this is probably the lamest TWD post you'll ever see! I didn't even take a picture of my pie, in fact, I didn't take any pictures of my Thanksgiving dinner! So frustrating when I do that.

When I started making this recipe I thought it sounded like a nice way to combine two pies enjoyed by so many. Those whom I told about the pie were very interested in how it would turn out, as was I. So, Wednesday night I set out to make the Twofer Pie!

I used my own pie crust that I'm in love with and making the pie itself was quick and easy. It looked pretty, smelled great, but it wasn't a hit with the crowds. Most people felt like it was a pumpkin pie with pecans on top. The pumpkin overpowered the caramelized pecan flavor that I love in a pecan pie. It's probably not a repeat for me. If I'm going to go to the trouble of making a pumpkin filling and a pecan filling, I think I'd just make two pies.

Sorry for the lackluster post. Stay tuned for more baking!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Culinary Celeb Sighting!

Tonight Holly was sweet enough to invite me to attend a cooking class that was sponsored by her work at a wonderful place called Gygi Culinary Solutions. She could bring one guest and because she knows how much I love cooking, she invited me to go with her! Last month I went with her to a great class on Chinese cooking and we had a great time. 

So, tonight I walk into the kitchen and who is standing at the end of the island in the amazing kitchen but Kelsey from The Next Food Network Star! I have to admit I was a bit star struck. I am a total geek! I love the show and I watched faithfully this past season and was excited to see a BYU grad and member of the Church make it on the show. She was quite successful as well and made it to the final four. 

I finally got up the courage to talk to her and to tell her I had been to culinary arts school and that my dream was to someday do something with food. When I told her I had four kids she told me I looked way too young to have that many kids. :) That always makes you feel good! She was a delightful person and it was a nice class on Easy Entertaining and I came away with some wonderful recipes. 

At the end of the dinner I asked Holly if she would take a picture for me (thank goodness for Blackberry phones with decent cameras). I was a total geek and she was kind enough to take a photo with me. 

It was a wonderful evening and it inspired me not to give up my dream to eventually do something grand with food. I love being in the kitchen. I love experimenting. I love tasting new food. I love searching through recipes. There aren't many things I don't love about food. If I could do it all over again I would probably have attended a school where I could spend four years doing academics and culinary arts but for now, I am content to have lived my dream cooking in an amazing kitchen for three fabulous months at a time in my life when I was single and had nothing better to be doing. During that time I met the man of my dreams and fell madly in love. I don't think I could ask for anything better than that. 

For now I'll hold onto that dream of owning a fabulous bakery or opening a commercial kitchen to rent out or simply selling my cookies by the dozen. Tonight my passion for food was reignited and hopefully I can keep that flame burning while I continue on this journey that is motherhood. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


After dinner, we'll have some rice pudding for a treat!

Mom, what's rice pudding?

Uh, well, its pudding with rice in it.

Mom, why do you put rice in the pudding?

Uh, well, so you can call it "rice" pudding, I guess.


So, I guess its pretty obvious that we don't have rice pudding a lot in our family. I tried. I really did. I truly had an open mind too. I was glad I read the Q&A's where I learned about the "fatal type-o" in the cookbook. I think this could have been a REAL disaster if I hadn't. A lot of people struggled with this recipe, so I've decided not to take this one personally. I think I would tweak it a bit if I were to do it again. Like I might leave out the rice and cook it at a higher temp. Except I think the rice provides the starch that makes it a "pudding". Anyway, here it is.

The ingredients were simple. And lovely. Who doesn't love whole milk, sugar, vanilla, and smooth bittersweet chocolate together? The Arborio rice was beautiful and delicious too. I think I'll use the rest to make Giada's stuffed tomatoes.

This was near the end of the cooking process. Dorie said the rice would start to peek through the surface when it was near done. I now know I should have cooked it slightly longer.

I decided to try both white and black versions. I really love a good vanilla flavor, but who can resist a good dark chocolate? They didn't set up well enough to be photogenic, so this is the final picture. And it has saran wrap over the top. Sorry! It was a bit soupy. I liked the vanilla best actually. There was a simple sweetness to it that was quite yummy. But the rice didn't seem to fit.
My favorite part of this recipe is how my sweet kids responded. I served it to them and they asked a few more questions, but ate it slowly. HUGE red flag!!! I asked them what they would give it on a scale of 1 to 10. They said 1000!!! (I gave it a 6.) Then I went to the gym and they finished eating with my hubby. He told me later that they picked the rice out and said it was weird. I guess they didn't want to hurt my feelings!!! Awwwwww! Who knew????

The complete recipe is here if you want to give it a shot.

I'm not sure I'm sophisticated enough to be a pro at rice pudding yet, but I make a mean rice crispy treat and nobody worries about hurting my feelings when I serve these up.
Super Yummy Peanut Butter Chocolate Rice Crispy Treats
1/4 c butter
1/4 c peanut butter
1 bag marshmallows
6-7 cups rice crispies
1 c milk chocolate chips
1 c semi sweet chocolate chips

In a large pan, melt butter and peanut butter together over medium heat. Add marshmallows and stir until melted.

Remove from heat. Gently stir in rice crispies. Press into greased (with butter) jelly roll pan (10x15).

In glass bowl, mix chocolate chips, then microwave for 2 minutes or until glossy. Stir until smooth and unified in color, then spread on rice crispy mixture. Pop those babies in the fridge for about 20 minutes or until the chocolate sets up. Slice and enjoy!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Foothill House Sweet Dreams

Saturday night I had the baking bug and was craving one of my all-time favorite cookies, Foothill House Sweet Dreams. They are a fabulous chocolate chip cookie that my dad made during my growing-up years and they are a cookie I hope my kids will remember me making too. 

Foothill House Sweet Dreams

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp salt
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans (or walnuts) (I prefer pecans)

1 cup powdered sugar

Cream butter and sugar together until smooth; add egg and vanilla.   Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt in separate bowl.   Add to creamed mixture.   Add chocolate chips and nuts.   Shape dough into balls and roll in powdered sugar.   Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes.

Baking Buddies

Hello Ladies...I am up and going and ready to bake. I recieved my book this weekend in the mail. It looks amazing!! I can honestly say that most the items in there are way over my head as far as skill level so this is going to be good for me. Please be forgiving when my items don't come out awesome or pretty. I thought I would share my baking from this weekend. Sunday is our day for a treat and I also thought I would do a practice round for my turkey day rolls.

Lizzie's Rolls

Okay so technically these are Teresa's rolls which Lizzie has perfected. Whenever we did Sunday dinner at Lizzie's house in college it would not have mattered if there were ramen noodles in front of us as long as we had Liz's rolls we were happy (fyi: we never ate ramen noodles for sunday dinner). Seriously amazing!! I have never been great at breads and so after making her rolls a few times I was determined that my fate was to be flat dry potato looking rolls, but viola this time they worked and I actually think they turned out pretty. I am glad I tried them again. Thanks for the recipe Liz. I will let her share it with you just in case it is a family secret or something. Oh, wait we are all family, but maybe she doesn't want the world to have it.

Estrellas Chocolates

I realize the picture isn't all that great, sorry I have poor lighting here. Anyhow,
Sarah sent me these lovely Renyolds fun shapes baking cups that are star shaped. We both love chocolate lava cakes from the kraft website and she made them in these and loved them even more so she sent me some. I finally made the estrellas chocolates or star shaped chocolate lava cakes. She sent me a recipe along with it which was different than mine so I tried hers. They were actually pretty different so I will include both recipes so you can take your pick. Sarah's, Estrellas Chocolates,have a more cake like substance to them and the recipe I have, Chocolate Lava Cakes, are a little thicker and more brownie like (I use semisweet chocolate chips instead of semisweet baking squares).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie: Kugelhopf

When I first saw the name of the recipe I was curious to open my book and check out what exactly Kugelhopf was. Kuglehopf is a lightly sweetened cake that uses yeast as its leavening agent instead of baking soda or baking powder. The recipe called for raisins, but instead I chose to add some chopped fresh cranberries and some finely grated orange peel to the dough. Next time I would add more cranberries and might do larger chunks as they got "lost" in the final product. All-in-all though, I was very pleased with the final result.

My dough turned out lovely. When I finished the initial mixing, it was smooth and satiny. I followed the suggestion to refrigerate the dough overnight. In the morning, I pulled the dough out and placed it in my pan to let it rise. I used a bundt pan so my cake turned out a little squatty, but the taste more than makes up for its short stature. 

After the cranberries and orange rind were added...

This cake is traditionally a coffee cake, something that is eaten for breakfast or as a light afternoon snack. I decided to take mine and give it a little bit more of a dessert feel so I made a cranberry sauce with some fresh ginger. I served my Kugelhopf with the sauce and a dollop of whipped cream on top. It was fabulous!

Kugelhopf was a labor intensive recipe, so I know it is not something I will make on a regular basis, but I had great success with a yeasted dough and the end result was good enough that given the right occasion, I would definitely make this again. 

If you are interested in trying your hand at Kugelhopf, head to The All-Purpose Girl

Until next Tuesday, Happy Baking!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie - Rugelach

Tuesdays With Dorie - Rugelach
Okay! I did it! I made Rugelach! I'm quite proud that I successfully made this dessert. I LOVE to bake. I think it's quite addicting, as long as what you're attempting to bake turns out as divine as this did! I made one with raspberry, chocolate, pecan, currant filling and one with just chocolate raspberry filling (to keep the picky hubby - who thinks he's not picky - happy). They were both delicious. I got more nervous to make it when reading about all the trouble people had with the texture of the dough and the "exploding filling". Fortunately I only had one of those problems.

You know it's going to be delicious when it starts with two of my favorite ingredients - butter and cream cheese! Seriously, I don't think I've had anything with these two ingredients that I haven't loved.

My dough was a little dry, but thankfully I'd read to add a little sour cream and that saved the day. I felt like a very skilled and professional baker putting my dough disks in the refrigerator.

This is the part I was really impressed by, because I completed it with my 4 kids and 4 neighbor kids over! It was really fun having little helpers. I had to add extra chocolate chips at the end to make up for the ones that landed in little bellies prematurely!

Here's the final product. They're like little bite size tastes of heaven. Everyone was happy - even the picky hubby. I was really pleased for our family to discover a dessert that I normally wouldn't have picked on my own. I think next time I'll try one with Heath bits or Nutella!

Here's the recipe if you'd like to also feel like an accomplished, professional baker!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie-- Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes

"Cookies, cookies, best things to eat. Chocolate cupcakes are also a treat!"

Cookie Monster says it all for me. I am truly a lover of cookies, but cupcakes also make a nice treat! After reading post after post on TWD about dry cupcakes, I put all kiddos down for naps and set out with hopes of making deliciously moist and delectable chocolate, chocolate cupcakes!

I consulted with both Sarah and Whitney about possible solutions to the dry problem. My gut instinct was to add another egg, but in the end I decided not to and just shortened the bake time a little. My cupcakes looked great, had fantastic flavor, but they were a little dry. In retrospect I should have added another egg, or substituted oil for some of the butter.

My honey believes that if you add enough frosting to anything, it will cover all blemishes or baking errors (he has the same theory for brown sugar and hot cereal). This rich ganache-like glaze did just that! I could have eaten it by spoonfuls, but instead, I frosted these beauties.
All my kiddos and honey agreed they were tasty. Nothing out of this world, but an easy and rich chocolately treat!
Here's the recipe for those interested.
Hi girls! I'm on and ready to bake! I'm still waiting for my book to arrive. I think this will be lots of fun! Fall time is the perfect time to start something like this. I find myself baking up some special confectionary delight almost daily. If I don't I end up eating a half a bag of peanut butter m&m's like last night. Thanks for including me!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie--Pumpkin Muffins

This weeks Tuesdays With Dorie recipe was Pumpkin Muffins. 

I am all about enjoying really great baked goods, but father time often gets the best of me and I use short cuts and baking mixes. I really enjoyed taking my time and making something so wonderful!! I used a little creative license and changed up the mix-ins. I also used half the amount of ginger, because I always taste the ginger first. I guess I have a ginger super-sense. And I doubled the recipe. 12 muffins just isn't enough for my hungry family and friends.

I started with this...

...and I used my new muffin pan my friend Shelley gave me for my birthday. Aren't those pumpkins cute? I love baking with these silicone muffin pans. The muffins just pop out with out greasing or anything. AND you can just put the whole pan into the dishwasher.

I also used my traditional muffin pan as it cooks a lot more muffins at once. I also made a coffee cake topping to put on a few. They were great, but the sweetness overpowered the pumpkin-ness a bit.

I ended up with a plate full of this....

The verdict... Nate gave it 2 thumbs up and a smile. These muffins were firm enough to be hearty and moist enough to really enjoy the flavor. I thought about adding some chocolate chips to the last batch, but really loved the warm deliciousness of the raisins and pumpkin flavors together. Hubby and I enjoyed it with a hazlenut steamer. Yummy!!

The full recipe is posted here.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Chocolate Marshmallow Deliciousness.....

I am so excited to be a part of the Celestial Confections blog! Thanks Whitney for inviting me to participate! Since I have to wait 2 more days for Tuesdays with Dorie, I thought I'd share my weekend baking adventure.

My little friend Dax had his 4th birthday this week and I had the privilege of baking him some cupcakes. The timing was perfect because I had just seen this and was dying to try it. I used the basic recipe with vanilla instead of barley syrup (that was a no-brainer) and I used Rachael Ray's Marshmallow Frosting recipe, mostly because I wasn't sure about taking a meringue icing to a child's birthday party.

I quadrupled the cupcake recipe to make about 24 cupcakes and the icing recipe I made as directed. They are super-duper chocolatey and ooey gooey delicious! I may never use a cake mix again! Enjoy!